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In 1956 the West African coast between southern Mauretania and western Cameroon was lined with no less than ten European colonial territories, along with a single independent African state. All of these colonial units have joined Liberia in formal political independence. Their political experiences since 1956 and indeed the forms of their present political regimes themselves have varied very widely over this period, from the defiant and paranoid austerity of Guinea to the gleeful surge of Nigeria's oil-generated capitalist expansion. In political taste the present governments cover almost the full spectrum of Third World regimes. Yet the societies themselves have many geographical and historical features in common, certainly far more in common than in the case of most units studied by analysts of comparative politics. This book was first published in 1978.